Puffa jackets have not always been appreciated. Marty McFly’s down vest in Back to the Future inspired the jibe “What’s with the life preserver?” Wags have also ridiculed the products of Italy’s Moncler. They have been compared to sleeping bags or even airbeds. Yet these warm coats have hot sales. The shares jumped 11 per cent on Friday, after revenues rose 19 per cent last year.
The 2018 figures underline Moncler’s remarkable decade-long evolution. Boss Remo Ruffini has turned the once bombed-out French skiwear brand into a stock market darling with a €9.5bn market capitalisation. Its success was built on spotting the demand for more casual wear in the luxury sector.
Moncler showed how elegance could coexist with comfort. The use of lightweight fibres allowed it to create a cut that was flattering, not to mention trendy. That keeps customers coming back. Two-fifths of its sales are repeat business. Moncler collaborates with high-profile designers. Its padded full-length evening dresses are the latest eye-catching example.
Design savvy — along with skilled execution — has resulted in some of the highest profit margins in its sector. Moreover, there is limited competition in its niche. Other luxury brands dabble in its market. Canada Goose, which recently reported a 50 per cent rise in third-quarter sales, is performing well. But its coats are generally not as pricey. Moncler has moved upmarket; jackets cost 50 per cent more than 10 years ago, says Jefferies.
Moncler deserves credit for reviving the popularity of down jackets among the style conscious. The big question is how long the trend will last. A taste for comfort is unlikely to disappear but fashions do fade. A 1980s vogue for puffa jackets did not last.
The group has the design skills to lessen its dependence on outerwear. Other products such as knitwear and even swimwear are just a fifth of sales. But they are growing fast. Expect the brand to expand beyond inflated coats at swollen prices.
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